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Restorative Practices


What are restorative practices?

Restorative Practices focus on building, maintaining, and when necessary, repairing relationships among all members of the school community when harm occurs.  Restorative Practices encourage accountability that emphasize empathy and obligation to repair harm, and is designed to foster a climate of belonging and security and keep students learning in the classroom. The restorative approach is based on a set of guiding principles and practices for the school community.  It sees relationships as central to learning, growth and an inclusive, respectful school culture.  It is a paradigm shift from traditional rule-based, punitive discipline systems to a system where growth and transformation are the main goals. 

(Source:  Restorative Solutions)


What are the elements of discussion in a restorative conversation?

Discussion centers around what occurred, who was affected and how was the individual affected, what needs to be done to repair the harm, and who is responsible for repairing the harm that was caused.

(Source:  Essex Middle School, Essex, VT)


What conditions are necessary to implement restorative practice conversations?

Restorative Practices can be used in a variety of circumstances, but for the conversations to be successful, all parties must be willing to engage and seek solutions.  In addition, pre-conferences with all parties are necessary to ensure that the appropriate and requisite ground rules are set to assist in repairing harm.


Who attends a restorative practice conversation?

This can vary depending on the circumstances, but most Restorative conversations involve a trained facilitator, the individuals affected by the incident and their respective support systems (family and/or friends).


What does a restorative conversation look like in practice?

It begins with the facilitator reminding all participants of the protocols involved.  Next, the facilitator may provide a brief context related to the incident.  The party that experienced harm then shares how the incident made them feel and provides a personal perspective to the incident.  Supporters of the individual harmed may also say a few words in an effort to provide additional context.  Once this perspective is explained, the individual responsible for causing the harm shares their feelings (not to defend their actions) and indicates they understand the harm caused.  The last step involves a mutual understanding of how the harm will be repaired.


Does engaging in a restorative conversation eliminate further disciplinary action?

This is dependent on the severity and circumstances of the incident.  It should be noted, however, that restorative practices are not to be used as an additional consequence, but rather another mechanism to to assist in providing a shared understanding of empathy, kindness, and respect.  If all parties are genuine in their understanding of the process and utilize the restorative process with fidelity, a common understanding of repair will occur. 


Is there evidence that restorative conversations are helpful?

Yes, empirical research states the schools that implement restorative conversations, with fidelity, have significantly fewer incidences of bullying and harassment.